Why the Over Abundance of Franchises and Remakes?
What It Really Says About Us
I remember a few months ago I was purchasing the new Blu-ray release of Pet Sematary at a Best Buy. The woman ringing me out asked if I could believe they are even remaking the film. She stated it in such an overly defensive manner, acting as if a remake is some kind of high crime. Anytime a new remake or sequel is on the horizon, I always hear someone cry out 'why do we need (insert film here)?' Granted, we do not need any film to be honest. We are talking about a consumer product, not food or water. Hence, I find this 'why do we need' argument to be lacking in any intelligence.
Instead, the better question to ask is why the demand for these franchises, sequels, and remakes? Why does Hollywood keep churning them out? Where is all the original content that audiences keep asking for?
We seem to forget that Hollywood is not interested in art. Hollywood itself is a business! As Jon Landau puts it best "As a studio, we set out to make a release date, and not make a movie." Look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the biggest movie franchise to date. We start in the beginning with Iron Man that can hook in people who are Iron Man fans, comic book fans, and superhero nerds, fans of action movies, and fans of Robert Downey Jr. Next, you can hook these people in again with further sequels and follow-ups by expanding the franchise with more, more, more! You get to Avengers, and already the audience of the first Iron Man is showing up, while bringing in friends and family.
Why do remakes and re-boots you ask? Same reason, a built-in audience. You went to see Spider-Man in 2002 when in high school. Now in college you can go see the The Amazing Spider-Man in 2012. Five years later you can take you first child to Spider-Man: Homecoming. Finding, targeting, and marketing for a new audience requires more work, and again, more money for the business that is Hollywood. Each generation is obsessed with sharing their loves, interests, and passions with their children. One of these is their favorite films. Disney is already banking on this with its remakes such as the upcoming Mulan for example.
The familiarity goes hand-in-hand with the built-in audience. Kids today probably never saw the original animated Aladdin from Disney. Nonetheless, they probably know of it! We can say the same for all kinds of franchises—Harry Potter, Friday The 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Batman, Spider-Man, etc. Say what you will, most people at least know of these films, for they are part of the American pop-culture zeitgeist.
Familiarity requires less work from the studio as well. We can spend X amount of money and time in a new Star Wars film, or we can spend money on some other new, different fantasy/sci-fi epic. Studios are going to go with the former, rather than the latter. The former is a low risk, high reward project. Commence the broken record player, but Hollywood is interested in money not art, sorry!
We cannot completely blame the studio for this, but ourselves, the audience as well. Today we are jam packed with content going down our throat. How many apps do you have on your TV or phone for streaming services? Netflix, Hulu, you name it. Almost everyone wants their own streaming app now; we have Disney+ on the way. You have plenty more films from studios in a calendar year than you did decades ago. People are ever busy with their jobs, school, kids, and keeping up to date on social media. Sure, they can make time in their busy schedule for a new film like Fast Color, or instead go see something they are more comfortable and familiar with like Avengers: Endgame. With so much content, who has the time to see all these movies? We move now into cheap, and even free streaming services allowing you to watch movies at your leisure. Again, why spend money on a new movie that many do not even pay to see? Instead, they can wait to watch it for free on some streaming service.
The Monopolization of Style in Film
Stay with me, but I dare say the audiences barely even care about art anymore in film. We live in an era of soundbites, silly YouTube videos, and overall criticism for the sake of criticism like "Everything Wrong With..." on YouTube. Add to this, we'd rather watch/listen to people critique a film, rather than going to see the film for ourselves. Hence, films with an over-abundance of self-parody, comedy, pop-culture references, and immature humor are the go-to's, like Deadpool for example.
In other times, we want that simple franchise flavor, which Disney has a hold on with its own properties and the Marvel films. Watch enough of their films, and they rarely offer anything new. Instead, they wrap things up in bows, and wrappings of different colors, but the content itself is always the same. Any time a film goes against the usual Pepsi standard, it is criticized. Granted they are franchise films, but movies like Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice are somewhat subversive films. Ranting and raving 'critics' though simply want junk food, and not food for thought. With that said, why create anything new and inspiring? The numbers show they want the same old, same old. Anyone not adhering to Disney's family friendly, a-typical, and over-use of bathos is the standard. Going against this is akin to blasphemy.
Audiences have become jaded over the constant up-dating news on wars, political turmoil, and other bad events. Right now America is extremely divided between ideologies, classes, and race. Many people just want to veg out watching Iron Man discuss ice cream flavors, or singing from Will Smith in Aladdin. Add this to people's limited time in their busy lives among too much content, one cannot completely blame them.
I dare say this will only get worst with the recent 007 announcement. Instead of creating new stories, new characters, and new possible icons, we just retread old material. Now we recast legendary characters with people of different races and or genders. Diversity does sell, but does it really offer much new? Audiences need to ask themselves if diversity needs to outpace any real progress in new story telling. Sure it shows diversity, but it also shows a lack of originality. Personally, I am not offended by these at all. Look at it this way, what is next? Iron Woman? Then we have an Iron Man remake/reboot, but possibly played by an Asian man? Yay for diversity, but does this not fly in the face of those 'why do need a remake' remarks?
In the end, I feel as if many audiences are digging their own graves here. What they don't understand is they are sending this message to the studios. Yes, once in a while we have a hit and flop. John Wick is a relatively new franchise, and Jordan Peele is seeing success with Get Out and Us. On the other side, movies like Men in Black International and Dumbo (2019) are hardly box office hits. These are rare occasions. Think about it in terms of starting a new car company to compete against Ford and GM. No one is saying you are destined to fail, but it is almost unlikely in the oligopoly that is America. Your money sends a message to what you want. I personally have decided to stop giving money to Disney. The Marvel films are rather sub-par, and their remakes hardly get me that hyped. I can wait to watch The Lion King on Netflix if anything. Better I send this message by not spending money on these films.